So it’s official. Your “Patience” paid off. (Ouch.)
Axl Rose will be taking over for Brian Johnson for the remaining dates of AC/DC’s “Rock or Bust” tour. That includes the makeup date for the postponed First Niagara Center show, which has not been officially announced yet, but will likely be in late summer, following Rose’s commitments to the Guns ‘n’ Roses reunion tour.
Publicists for both AC/DC and Rose announced the confirmation of this weeks-old rumor over the weekend, thereby setting off a social media firestorm between those who support the decision and those who don’t.
This seems like a trainwreck waiting to happen. Rose’s temperamental nature is well-documented, as is his tendency to show up late on stage. And his voice, based on his appearance two summers ago at the Outer Harbor with a refurbished Guns N’ Roses, is not likely to be up to the task. My fear is that Rose will attempt to employ his falsetto howl in order to hit the high notes AC/DC’s music demands, in the process, shredding his vocal chords, scaring young children, and putting every dog within miles of First Niagara Center on high alert.
The official word from AC/DC suggests more sympathy for the departing Johnson than the earlier rumors of his offhand firing - following a doctor’s analysis that suggested continuing the tour would irreparably damage his hearing - suggested.
“AC/DC band members would like to thank Brian Johnson for his contributions and dedication to the band throughout the years. We wish him all the best with his hearing issues and future ventures. As much as we want this tour to end as it started, we understand, respect and support Brian’s decision to stop touring and save his hearing. We are dedicated to fulfilling the remainder of our touring commitments to everyone that has supported us over the years, and are fortunate that Axl Rose has kindly offered his support to help us fulfill this commitment.”
Fair enough. But here are a few reasons why the Rose decision might well have been the wrong one for the band to make.
The voice. It’s an acquired taste at best, and of course, not everyone worshipped the dulcet tones of Johnson’s Newcastle-born shipmate’s acid-gargling growl, either. That said, AC/DC is basically an incredibly heavy blues and primal rock ’n’ roll band, and both Johnson and his predecessor, the late Bon Scott, were bluesy and soulful in their delivery. Rose is more of a metal yelper. I hope I’m proven wrong, but at present, I hold no high hopes for his bringing anything resembling soulfulness to the party.
The wasted opportunities. If AC/DC were simply going to throw the net over the side of the boat and see what kind of vocalizing fish were swimming in the immediate area, they might looked for one of the truly big fish – say, a Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) or a Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), both of whom are still in possession of their abundant vocal chops. I doubt either of the two would have turned down the opportunity. Both quite likely would’ve crushed it.
The “Whole Lotta Rosie” factor. Just ponder this. Rose will more than likely be tackling “Whole Lotta Rosie.” It’s a tune AC/DC rarely, if ever, leaves out of its set. This is quite likely to sound like a sack full of feral cats being tossed into a wood chipper with condenser microphones clipped to their fur. I doubt there will be any way to “unhear” this, once it has been heard.
It could all fall apart before the tour reaches Buffalo. It has been suggested that Rose has changed his ways, matured, stopped being as difficult to deal with as his Guns N’ Roses bandmates have suggested he can be. In his self-titled autobiography, GnR guitarist Slash blames Rose for the band’s mid-’90s demise, painting a picture of his former bandmate that might make Mussolini blush. Similarly, bassist Duff McKagan’s book “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies)” is not exactly brimming with praise for Rose.
Rose might have been in a position to push the rest of GnR around in the ‘90s, when many members of the band were struggling with serious drug problems, but if he tries that nonsense with AC/DC, he’s not likely to get too far. Clean, sober, and incredibly vigilant when it comes to running his band, Angus Young does not suffer fools. Let’s hope Rose doesn’t act like one.
The potential damage to AC/DC’s legacy. AC/DC represents something. The band’s musical integrity can’t really be challenged. Despite the myriad trends that have come and gone over the decades, AC/DC has remained true to its vision. Some might simply say the band members were too dumb to change or expand their sound. Others, myself included, find the group’s marriage of its early influences – Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Howlin’ Wolf – with the arena-friendly bombast of hard rock irresistible. This is quite likely to be the band’s final tour. Do they really want to go out with Rose as their singer?
We’re left in the position of simply hoping for the best. At the very least, Buffalo AC/DC fans will have the opportunity to witness a bit of rock history in the making.